Greenpoint Gazette

Bushwick Students Get Acquainted With Neighborhood Artists

BY Tanay Warerkar

For one local school, art classes hit home, literally.

Keeping a local focus, a group of P.S. 147 fourth and fifth graders has spent the past semester exploring the rich and diverse artistic culture thriving around the environs of their Bushwick Avenue school.

The Art Explorers Club was piloted last spring by NurtureArt to bring young students, who live or study in the neighborhood, to local art galleries and studios. Following its initial success, it was formally established as one of several programs run by the neighborhood arts non-profit, which has been operating at the school since 2011.

For NurtureArt Educational Director Molly O’Brien, the need for the program was brought home by a participant in the inaugural Art Explorers Club who mistook a Bushwick gallery for a branch of NurtureArt, which in addition to its educational arm, maintains an in-house gallery showcasing the work of local artists. The student had visited the non-profit’s facility earlier in the year.

For O’Brien, the message was clear. Students in the local public school system had virtually no exposure to the artistic community around them. In fact, P.S. 147 is one of several schools in the city without a full time art program due to a lack of funding and is hence reliant on organizations like NurtureArt, to shore up the curriculum where it is lacking.

Over the course of semester, the Explorers visited 10 different artists and spaces, with O’Brien giving the students as varied an experience as possible, while limiting the visits to sites as close to the school as possible, so students could feel comfortable visiting again even after the program had concluded.

O’Brien also wanted to expose the students primarily to artists who were directly inspired by their environment and surroundings. Among the spaces visited by the students were the Black and White Gallery on Bogart Street and the Invasive Pigments Project on McKibben Street, where the artist Ellie Irons creates paints through plants.

“I think in the end the program really leaves the kids empowered and helps them feel more entitled to the cultural spaces around them,” said O’Brien. “When they meet artists who are validating their ideas and taking them seriously it really acts as a great learning opportunity.”

To learn more about NurtureArt’s education initiatives, visit http://nurtureart.org/?page_id=43.

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